04 December 2020

Good and Evil, part 1

To the surprise of no one, I listen to a lot of old gospel hymns. One of the constant themes of those hymns is why God would allow evil people to prosper. It seems obvious that a good God would want to punish evil, and that if God is omnipotent and truly rules this world then evil should never prosper. It seems perfectly reasonable, but it begs the question, is that really what God wants?

God does indeed bless the good and punish the evil. We see examples of this throughout scripture. In Genesis, God wipes away the whole earth, but spares Noah and his family. In Exodus, he punishes Pharaoh and delivers Israel. In Judges he leads Israel's champions against the Philistines and other invaders of the land. In Revelation, God gives his final judgment, providing an eternal home for the redeemed while evil is simply wiped from the face of the Earth.

Still, there is another theme, a counter-current to this thought that God only acts through good people. Through the scripture, God uses evil people to bring good people, or at least his chosen people (some of them, and us, can be quite awful sometimes), back to the fold. God hardens Pharaoh's heart so that Moses will not have an easy win, so that no one can say that it was Moses who delivered Israel and not God. God allows Moab, Philistine, and Babylon to conquer Israel when they become too full of themselves and turn to the worship of other Gods. Even Jesus is tested by Satan. That he passed this testing is what makes him the "worthy" Lamb of God.

When we think of Evil with a capital "E," we think of Revelation, of Satan the dragon and the false prophet and the "powers" of Hell. But this is thinking that comes from the medieval era, from Paradise Lost and Dante's Inferno. It has little biblical precedent. When we look at Revelation we see that Good is rewarded in the resurrection, but that evil is not punished so much as it is unrewarded. There is no resurrection of the wicked. Similarly, supernatural Evil is punished in the supernatural lake of fire. But notice that this is the punishment for supernatural evil, not evil humans.

God's idea of human evil is very much unlike our own. It is God's will to reconcile all of humanity, not in some supernatural future, but every day in this life. Next week, we'll look at scripture's first family and see how God preserves the good and reconciles the evil.

Until then,
Peace be with you.

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